DFIR-02 : Journal Forensics

Using $LogFile and $UsnJrnl during digital investigations

NTFS Journaling (Transaction Logging)

Windows NTFS uses a journaling technique that records a sequence of file changes in the $LogFile. Windows does a good job at maintaining data consistency after critical failures that cause the system to shut down unexpectedly. Specifically, NTFS logs file transactions when:

  • Creating a file

  • Deleting a file

  • Extending a file

  • Truncating a file

  • Setting file information

  • Renaming a file

  • Change the security applied to a file

The previously analyzed $MFT file keeps a $LogFile Transaction entry at offset 08 to 15 and this is how MFT correlates with other metadata attributes in the NTFS file system.

From a forensics' perspective these records are valuable when it comes to creating a timeline of transactions.

NTFS change tracking journals :


  • Tracks file and directories changed on the system via the USN (Update Sequence Number) journal.

  • Available in the root directory under $Extend folder.

  • Contains two ADS (alternate data stream) :

    • $Max : Where the meta data of change log is stored

    • $J : Where the actual change log records are stored.


  • Track changes to MFT metadata.

  • Available at the root directory.


In order to parse these journals here are some great free tools :


Here is a great video by @13cubed on how to parse and use these journals :

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